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Monday, August 31, 1998 Published at 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK

World: Europe

Hundreds join Paris vigil

Cars gather above the Pont de l'Alma tunnel

In Paris, around 300 people gathered at the entrance to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel - scene of the crash in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died.

The crowd gathered around the Flame of Liberty statue, which has become the unofficial shrine to the princess.

An all-night candlelit vigil near the entrance to the tunnel also marked the place where she was fatally injured.

[ image: The Liberty flame has become a focus of grief]
The Liberty flame has become a focus of grief
Messages left around the flame statue ranged from those saying: "It was not an accident, Diana was murdered" to messages expressing their continued shock at her death, saying "Diana - is it a year already?"

Among the visitors was the off-duty doctor who was the first arrive at the crash scene.

Dr Frederic Mailliez told those who gathered near the underpass: "I wish I could have done more."

Messages and poems

With the police blocking pedestrian access to the tunnel where the crash occurred, the statue has become the focus for tributes.

Messages and poems in many languages along with bouquets of lilies, roses and wild flowers adorned the base of the statue.

"To Diana, the most beautiful, nice and charming of roses," said one card. "Diana, you are always here in our hearts. You were one of us. We will never forget you," said another.

[ image: A young English visitor signs Paris's Diana monument]
A young English visitor signs Paris's Diana monument
Just a solitary bouquet marked the actual site of the crash, laid by a mourner who broke through police barricades.

Dr Mailliez, who took Diana's pulse and spoke to her in English, talked to people gathered near the tunnel.

He said: "It's a very sad day, I will never forget it. It was not the first accident I attended and it won't be the last.

"But this was very hard because the victim was very famous."

He also called for an official monument in the city in tribute to the woman France still refers to as "Lady Di".

He said: "People are laying flowers here which is wonderful, but it's not exactly at the right place and it's not a shrine built for her. They have come to pay their respects and there is clearly a demand for something special to be placed here."

Doctor reassured

Mindy Smith, 68, from Salford, Manchester, spoke to the doctor with other well-wishers reassuring him he had done his best.

"I told him he was very brave to come here again," she said.

"At least we know Diana had someone as kind as him to reassure her while all the paparazzi were trying to get pictures of her."

"I've come down for the day," said Bob Bailey from southern England. "I once sat behind the princess at a concert and she smiled at me. I felt I had to come to say a little prayer for her."

Abhiroope Sud, a Paris resident, said: "I came a year ago as soon as I heard about Diana's death. The square that day was full of people. Everyone was in tears."

One year later the square was much less crowded.

Julie Pallares, from California, said: "I'm surprised there aren't more people here today."

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